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Wednesday, Sep 18, 2019

RAW - Romeo Akbar Walter movie review: John Abraham stars in a dumb movie about intelligence

RAW - Romeo Akbar Walter review: A stiff John Abraham threatens to blend into the traditionally wood-panelled walls. Rating: 1.5/5.

bollywood Updated: Apr 05, 2019 08:39 IST
Raja Sen
Raja Sen
Hindustan Times
RAW - Romeo Akbar Walter movie review: John Abraham stars as three different characters.
RAW - Romeo Akbar Walter movie review: John Abraham stars as three different characters.
         

RAW - Romeo Akbar Walter
Director - Robbie Grewal
Cast - John Abraham, Mouni Roy, Jackie Shroff, Sikandar Kher
Rating - 1.5/5 

Spy movies speak their own language. British spies in the movies have confidential conversations in public parks, spilling secrets while feeding ducks. Our spy movies, mostly set between India and Pakistan, feature agents and double-agents chatting at qawwali performances, presumably thinking the wails will drown them out. Romeo Akbar Walter follows spy clichés dutifully and drowns us in minutiae, but never feels immediate or exciting. It’s a slow film, and the spies at the qawwali are played by John Abraham and Mouni Roy.

Abraham, possibly a shark at poker, uses expressions sparingly, as if afraid to run out of a restricted repertoire. We meet him as Romeo, a young-ish man with Arjun Rampal hair and a pockmarked face, rougher than we’re used to seeing him, but the flatness of tone and performance remain steadfast. Alas, blankness and inscrutability are not the same, and, given that the film is set in Pakistan, the stiff actor threatens to blend into the traditionally wood-panelled walls.

Watch the Romeo Akbar Walter trailer here:

 

Set in 1971, there’s interesting ground: the Indian army training rebels in East Pakistan, Indian intelligence trying to outwit the Pakistanis via diplomatic misdirection, and Pakistani intelligence that, for once, looks efficient enough to be a threat. There is even some third-act skulduggery that could have been clever. Unfortunately, the film drags on for too long, and — despite RAW chief Jackie Shroff insisting “Nothing will be told to you directly” — every little bit is tediously spelt out.

The Indian intelligence network functions like a classroom-full of kids passing elaborately hidden notes, inside oranges and padlocks. Grewal appears so pleased with these hiding places that their logic is forsaken: an old man gives a well-dressed woman a box containing a saree covering a gun, yet the sight of these people together is so anachronistic he might as well hand her a cello case with a machine gun.

RAW buckles under John Abraham’s efforts.
RAW buckles under John Abraham’s efforts.

Some details are good. Handbills on the wall advertise the once-popular Turkish television brand, Arcelik, we hear of Prakash Padukone winning badminton tournaments in Kuala Lumpur, and a radio cruelly taunts a Pakistani Colonel with a classic, happy (albeit racist) Hindi film song. This Colonel is played by a terrific Sikandar Kher, a menacing figure who gets the dialect right, credibly swallowing English syllables: “police” becomes “pulce,” “lie detector” becomes “lie tector.” Yet this is an Abraham show, and as he takes on three characters with three names, the film buckles under the effort.

In the James Bond novels, there are pages where Bond reads a dossier. These are highly detailed pages, letting us know what Bond knows — before we turn to the action and thrills. Romeo Akbar Walter is all dossier, no thrill, and it’s a dossier read aloud by Jackie Shroff. Pity, really. No point in pouring a drink so dry it forgets it wanted to be a martini.

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First Published: Apr 05, 2019 08:36 IST